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The dumbing down of heirloom tomatoes


Fat Guy
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regarding melons, my guess is that it's just too early. they take extended, extreme heat to build sugar. we're just starting to get great melons here over about the last 3 weeks. and it does seem to me that california's season hasn't been quite as powerful as it has been in the past. i wonder if the central valley has been a little cooler than normal (which would still mean killer hot).

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A timely article in today's NY times food section is here!

While not really adding any fuel to the fire of Fat Guy's OP, it's a pleasant read with a week's worth of recipes.

Since I'm heading off to the market in an hour or so, it'll be interesting to see how this week's rainy and cool weather might affect the product!

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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When I buy "heirloom" tomatoes, I make it a point to know my grower. I do not buy them at the local Wild Oats. They just aren't the same flavor.

Now last summer we had a bad tomato year here in northwest Oklahoma. And it was HOT and DRY. Everyone at the farmers market had a bad tomato year just as we did here at the house.

This year is different. A much better year all around.

The cracking problem, heck, those are the ones we eat first. Or I make something with.

As for the pretty tomatoes, having grown a bunch, I know that the pretty ones do not always taste as good as they look. I do not throw out those uglies, everything gets used.

Our tomato season started July 4th weekend so we are getting to the back side of our harvest.

And the melons, we have been having a great year so far for melons. Great flavors.

Edited by joiei (log)

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was at the green market this past week, and ended up with this on our plates...

gallery_6902_4825_25745.jpg

I know it's hard to tell how good something might taste from a picture, but these tomatoes (and there are about 10 varieties in there) were absolutely delicious.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

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Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I was just thinking about this myself! Yesterday I visited the Union Square Greenmarket and picked up a bunch of heirloom tomatoes from my regular guys (I forget the name, but they're at the end of the short dogleg in the Northeast and their other main products are herbs and potted plants). They were, as usual, mindblowingly delicious.

I actually mentioned this discussion to the farmer... how heirloom tomatoes used to be 100% awesome when you could find them 10 years ago and how they're not the virtual guarantee of quality anymore now that you can get them at Whole Foods. He visibly recoiled when I mentioned that name and said: "Look... if you put crap into the tomatoes, they're not going to be good no matter what kind they are. Also, these were picked yesterday. We have to pack them in single layer stacked boxes because they're too delicate to pile on top of each other, and even then some of them break open. [He pointed to a discard bucket of burst-open tomatoes.] There's no way you can get that from a big grocery store." He also reiterated that high rains does tend to create mushy, watery fruit and excessive cracking unless you're able to take countermeasures (which I suppose might include covering the vines to shield them from too much rain, or holding back the tomatoes until the weather dries out).

Anyway, I certainly didn't detect any diminution of quality. If anything, it's the case that my guys have mastered an ever-widening number of heirloom cultivars, so variety has increased greatly over the years. I got some Purple Cherokee, some Brandywine, some Amish Paste, and a medium-sized cultivar I can't quite remember that had the deepest red I've seen.

--

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So isn't this topic like the soft cheese topic and countless others just the result of poor shopping rather than a lack of access to quality ingredients? Hopefully the next topic in this vein will be about how hard it is to find sushi grade fish at ShopRite.

This is a recurring theme, on eg and elsewhere - it isn't reasonable to buy mediocre ingredients and assume they are a good representation of what is available.

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If ShopRite started selling fish and labeling it as "sashimi grade," and it sucked, then yes, that would certainly merit a discussion of how the designation "sashimi grade" has been dumbed down.

It's illogical to argue, just because it's possible to find a good example of a given product, that all other examples are irrelevant.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I was just thinking about this myself!  Yesterday I visited the Union Square Greenmarket and picked up a bunch of heirloom tomatoes from my regular guys (I forget the name, but they're at the end of the short dogleg in the Northeast and their other main products are herbs and potted plants).  They were, as usual, mindblowingly delicious.

I think this might be Stokes' Farms, Sam.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

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Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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If ShopRite started selling fish and labeling it as "sashimi grade," and it sucked, then yes, that would certainly merit a discussion of how the designation "sashimi grade" has been dumbed down.

It's illogical to argue, just because it's possible to find a good example of a given product, that all other examples are irrelevant.

That isn't the argument I'm making. My point is that making any sort of proclamation about the quality or availability of a product based on what you happen to find at your corner market is absurd. Just like suggesting that you can get good quality fish at ShopRite is absurd. If you shopped at the green market or whatever the local equivalent is where you happen to be, then you'd have the same position that weinoo, sam, and a half dozen others have expressed in this thread. Nobody ever made the case that 'heirloom tomatoes' were somehow better than all other tomatoes. They haven't been dumbed down - there have always been terrible hybrid and heirloom tomatoes available, just like there have been excellent hybrid and heirloom tomatoes available. If you buy garbage ingredients, you end up cooking and eating at best mediocre food. So rather than lament the poor quality of grocery store tomatoes, shop for ingredients where they are best. I don't see how lazy shopping is any sort of basis for a blanket statement about the quality of an ingredient.

Edited by melkor (log)
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Nobody ever made the case that 'heirloom tomatoes' were somehow better than all other tomatoes.  They haven't been dumbed down - there have always been terrible hybrid and heirloom tomatoes available, just like there have been excellent hybrid and heirloom tomatoes available. 

Those statements simply don't square with my experience. There was indeed a time when heirloom tomatoes were synonymous with excellent tomatoes. I never saw a terrible one for the first several years of the trend. Then the mediocre specimens came along, not just at regular supermarkets (where I rarely shop, depsite the tangled web of incorrect assumptions and presumptions that seem to paint me as an A&P-only shopper) but also at gourmet markets (where I do most of my shopping) and greenmarkets (where I've had mediocre heirlooms from the same greenmarkets that others posting on this topic use). Or, as Sam put it, "heirloom tomatoes used to be 100% awesome when you could find them 10 years ago and how they're not the virtual guarantee of quality anymore . . ."

So no, I don't think a reductionistic and tautological statement like "If you buy garbage ingredients, you end up cooking and eating at best mediocre food," remotely accounts for the very real phenomenon -- the dumbing down of heirloom tomatoes -- under discussion here.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Steve,

Just getting away from the "heirloom" part for a moment and focussing on "very tasty tomatoes", let's consider one example from Japan.

A section in Japan prizes high Brix/sweetness, and two very popular cultivars, both F1 hybrids, [open pollinated are hybrids too but in a different sense!] Momotaro and its red conterpart, Odoriko reign.

These are sold at varying prices that reflect their Brix levels that are posted on the fruit. The very highest, I believe 9-10, are sold at the usual unbelievable prices, reflecting the effort required to reach those [above normal] levels.

Normally, the large beefsteak type grown in our garden conditions average no more than 4-5% sugar. Cherry and currant tomatoes can reach 9%, the wild green species to 15% [see R. Chetelat 1998]

However, under excellent culture, including inducing physiological drought [also employed in Israel by irrigation with brackish watering close to ripening; see Susan's post] large-fruited tomatoes can be grown to have excellent taste. Some of these methods, as in viticulture for high quality wine, reduce yield.

Organic gardeners who take a great deal of trouble with their soil etc. induce growth effects about which we are just beginning to understand, including far larger uptake of organic species of nitrogen by the plant than previously suspected [and I mean nitrogen for direct nutritive cycles, not just for polyamine pathways].

As you may imagine, none of this is conducive to superlative yields, hence tidy profits. When the latter become the driving force, fresh weight of fruit per unit area cultivated becomes the main concern, not the Dry mass per unit area. The latter would be more likely to correspond to high flavor and good taste.

In addition to so-called 'heirlooms', certain hybrids and Open Pollinated varieties are well worth tying to growyourself or askingyour farmer for a taste:

Big Beef F1

Momotaro & Odoriko, F1

Franchi Sementi Large Red Italian Pear, and Tomande, its F1 counterpart

Some great Canadian varieties [all available from Upper Canada Seeds, no connection of course, postpaid to US] short, not unruly like US heirlooms

Harbinger

Moira

Montreal Tasty

Bush Beefsteak [yes, Canadian bred]

Belmonte

some great French varieties

Happy Gardening and Tomato addiction.

g

Edited by v. gautam (log)
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Those statements simply don't square with my experience. There was indeed a time when heirloom tomatoes were synonymous with excellent tomatoes. I never saw a terrible one for the first several years of the trend. Then the mediocre specimens came along, not just at regular supermarkets (where I rarely shop, depsite the tangled web of incorrect assumptions and presumptions that seem to paint me as an A&P-only shopper) but also at gourmet markets (where I do most of my shopping) and greenmarkets (where I've had mediocre heirlooms from the same greenmarkets that others posting on this topic use). Or, as Sam put it, "heirloom tomatoes used to be 100% awesome when you could find them 10 years ago and how they're not the virtual guarantee of quality anymore . . ."

So no, I don't think a reductionistic and tautological statement like "If you buy garbage ingredients, you end up cooking and eating at best mediocre food," remotely accounts for the very real phenomenon -- the dumbing down of heirloom tomatoes -- under discussion here.

I've never shopped with you but if you can't find decent tomatoes in August and good cheese in Manhattan you're just not trying. It's not that good heirloom tomatoes are any less good, but bad heirloom tomatoes are now available year round at places like A&P where you shouldn't be buying your produce anyway.

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I agree that it's not terribly difficult to find good tomatoes in late August, but that's not what Steven is asking about.

It's true that you can find something labeled "heirloom tomato" at A&P. I suppose that's it's even an accurate label. Unfortunately, that label is not the presumptive guarantee of quality that it used to be. Why is that?

Dave Scantland
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My experience has been a lot like Steve's. In the summer, I'm mostly in Rhode Island, near the ocean, and I shop at the local farm stand and the farmer's markets. The farm stand charges significantly more for their "heirloom" varieties, but even though they are laid out with varietal names and tempting descriptions, they are all completely underwhelming. I thought that maybe they refrigerated them, but they deny that. So now I wonder if it just doesn't ever get really hot enough for long enough to grow a really sweet, tasty tomato near the ocean.

Unfortunately, I haven't had much better luck in Connecticut . . .

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I agree that it's not terribly difficult to find good tomatoes in late August, but that's not what Steven is asking about.

It's true that you can find something labeled "heirloom tomato" at A&P. I suppose that's it's even an accurate label. Unfortunately, that label is not the presumptive guarantee of quality that it used to be. Why is that?

What label is EVER the presumptive guarantee of quality - labels are all about marketing, and nothing else. I mean, is "organic," as a labeling tool, any guarantee of quality? Is a "California" peach any guarantee of quality? Fresh roasted coffee - please!

As Russ and others noted above, tomatoes grown with care (and that means growing the right varieties for your location as well), under decent conditions, whether heirloom or not, are going to be better than tomatoes grown commercially (i.e. those heirlooms available at Whole Foods, Stew Leonard's, Dean & DeLuca, A & P, wherever), no matter what the label.

Fat Guy says: "There was indeed a time when heirloom tomatoes were synonymous with excellent tomatoes. I never saw a terrible one for the first several years of the trend."

But perhaps all those heirlooms we tasted 10 years ago just seemed to be so great - after all, what did we have to compare them with? Now that they're widely available, some of them just aren't as great as we once believed them to be. Especially when compared to a fresh picked (read Sam's post again), properly grown, plain old Early Girl (which I've also been loving this year) or beefsteak.

And my tomato salad pictured above, purchased from 3 or 4 different green market vendors, rocked (which according to some of the posts in this thread either means I know how to pick a good tomato, or I know the good vendors at the market, or I'm just damn lucky!).

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

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If I may reiterate my point...

Ten years ago, only a few people were growing heirloom tomatoes. These were the best growers in the area. I can remember that you had to show up early at the Union Square Greenmarket, or they would have sold out of heirloom tomatoes. Yes, you could still buy amazing "regular" tomatoes from these guys, but the heirloom tomatoes seemed to have a more intense "tomatoey" flavor, and depending on the cultivar had an interestingly different-than-usual tomatoey flavor.

Everyone in the area was getting heirloom tomatoes from these few growers. If Steven had an heirloom tomato in 1997, there were two choices: buy it from one or two growers at a greenmarket, of eat it at a handful of Manhattan restaurants like Blue Hill (which I don't think was open then, but I'm using it as an archetype). Those few restaurants, meanwhile, were buying their heirloom tomatoes from the same growers who were selling at the greenmarkets.

Now, ten years later, you can get heirloom tomatoes at A&P, Stew Leonard's, Fairway and Whole Foods, not to mention that there are more than eight growers selling them at the Union Square Greenmarket. And instead of a half-dozen high-end Manhattan restaurants like Blue Hill using heirloom tomatoes, hundreds of NYC-area restaurants like Josefina are using them. As a result, for all the reasons that have been outlined above, the average quality of all heirloom tomatoes one is likely to encounter has declined. In making this observation, Steven is absolutely correct.

However, Dave is also correct in observing that tomatoes are highly dependent on the grower (i.e., how/where they are grown, when they are picked, how they are handled, etc.), which comes down to where you buy your tomatoes. In support of that point, Mitch and I are similarly correct in observing that the same guys (plus a few more) who were selling the amazing heirloom tomatoes in 1997 are still selling amazing heirloom tomatoes today.

Supporting all of these observations, I have personally bought heirloom tomatoes this summer from Whole Foods and my guys at the Union Square Greenmarket. The contrast was huge, with the former being mediocre (if actually not bad for a supermarket tomato) and the latter being amazing.

These two sets of observations are not mutually incompatible unless it is the case that Steven is buying his heirloom tomatoes from the same people from whom Mitch and I are buying our heirloom tomatoes. The evidence suggests that, Steven's claimed trips to the Greenmarket to buy mediocre heirloom tomatoes notwithstanding, this is not the case.

Now, as to Steven's larger point about the "dumbing down of heirloom tomatoes" -- I'm not sure, exactly, what that means. When I think of "dumbing down" I think of a deliberate and purposeful reduction in sophistication, complexity and refinement in order to appeal to a broader, more popular demographic that would have difficulty in appreciating the real thing. I don't think that has happened here. Rather, it's simply the case that there has been an explosion in the production and availability of heirloom tomatoes over the last ten years. The inevitable result of this explosion has been that many growers have applied the same techniques and methods in producing heirloom tomatoes and bringing them to market that make regular supermarket tomatoes so crappy. That said, it strikes me that there are, in fact, more outstanding, mindblowingly delicious heirloom tomatoes to be had today than there were in 1997. The same few guys who were growing them back then are now growing many more of them (as well as growing more cultivars) and several other high-quality growers have jumped on the bandwagon. But, of course, the increase in availability of high-quality heirloom tomatoes is dwarfed by the increase in availability of mediocre-quality heirloom tomatoes in supermarkets and gourmet stores, which has gone from zero in 1997 to "the way most people get heirloom tomatoes" in 2007.

Does this mean that heirloom tomatoes have been "dumbed down"? I don't think so. Rather, it means that the popularity and availability of heirloom tomatoes have grown greatly over the last ten years, but nevertheless the same criteria which apply to all highly grower-dependent produce continue to apply to heirloom tomatoes. I suppose it is the case that heirloom tomatoes, taken as a whole, have seen a dramatic drop in quality over the last ten years. But the things I understood about tomatoes in 1997 are still true today. You just can't get an outstanding tomato at a grocery store or gourmet market.

--

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Even if we limit the discussion to only the heirloom tomatoes available at the Union Square Greenmarket, in my experience (and I shop there much less often than many other people, but enough to put two and two together) there has been a dramatic overall drop in heirloom-tomato quality. At this point you can't just tell someone "go to the Union Square Greenmarket and get some heirloom tomatoes" and expect that person to come back with great tomatoes. A few years ago, you could have done that. Now, you have to direct the person to specific stands on specific days, as well as limit the time frame (since even the reputable growers are now selling heirlooms earlier and later than in the past).

It is also possible, at the peak of the season, to get some great heirloom tomatoes at gourmet markets, especially at Eli's and the Vinegar Factory. You'll just pay a hefty premium. But it's also possible to get lousy heirlooms at these same places now and during much of the rest of the year. Even Fairway occasionally has a nice bin of heirloom specimens tucked between the bad hydroponic heirlooms and the bananas.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Even if we limit the discussion to only the heirloom tomatoes available at the Union Square Greenmarket, in my experience (and I shop there much less often than many other people, but enough to put two and two together) there has been a dramatic overall drop in heirloom-tomato quality.

My opinion is that there hasn't been.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Just in case I haven't expressed myself clearly, I'm not saying the best heirlooms at the Union Square Greenmarket aren't as good (or better) as they were at the beginning of the heirloom phenomenon (just to put a date on it, 1997 is when we see a significant number of mentions of heirloom tomatoes in news media, however there were heirloom tomatoes at the Union Square Greenmarket in 1993 in sufficient quantities to inspire several restaurant dishes and a mention in the New York Times). I'm saying that in recent years there have been plenty of mediocre heirloom tomatoes at the Union Square Greenmarket -- which didn't used to be the case. Thus, an overall decline in quality.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Just in case I haven't expressed myself clearly, I'm not saying the best heirlooms at the Union Square Greenmarket aren't as good (or better) as they were at the beginning of the heirloom phenomenon (just to put a date on it, 1997 is when we see a significant number of mentions of heirloom tomatoes in news media, however there were heirloom tomatoes at the Union Square Greenmarket in 1993 in sufficient quantities to inspire several restaurant dishes and a mention in the New York Times). I'm saying that in recent years there have been plenty of mediocre heirloom tomatoes at the Union Square Greenmarket -- which didn't used to be the case. Thus, an overall decline in quality.

So, let me get this straight. In 1993 there were good heirloom tomatoes available at the Union Square Greenmarket. In 1997 there were good heirloom tomatoes available at the Union Square Greenmarket. In 2007 there are good heirloom tomatoes available at the Union Square Greenmarket. You started a topic to bemoan the decline in quality of heirloom tomatoes because it's now possible to buy shitty heirloom tomatoes at the A&P and some vendors at the Union Square Greenmarket are selling worse tomatoes than others? Again, this gets back to the point I was making earlier - if you shop poorly, you get a poor quality product.

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It seems a bit myopic to say that, just because it's still possible to find a decent product amid a sea of mediocrity, the sea of mediocrity is therefore irrelevant. I think we already understood the truism that "if you shop poorly, you get a poor quality product," however it still strikes me as beside the point. The point is that a particular product designation went from being worth something to being worth very little. Some folks, myself included, find that both interesting and regrettable.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Even if we limit the discussion to only the heirloom tomatoes available at the Union Square Greenmarket, in my experience (and I shop there much less often than many other people, but enough to put two and two together) there has been a dramatic overall drop in heirloom-tomato quality. At this point you can't just tell someone "go to the Union Square Greenmarket and get some heirloom tomatoes" and expect that person to come back with great tomatoes. A few years ago, you could have done that. Now, you have to direct the person to specific stands on specific days, as well as limit the time frame (since even the reputable growers are now selling heirlooms earlier and later than in the past).

Like Mitch, I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one. All I can suggest is that perhaps you simply aren't getting to the Union Square Greenmarket frequently enough (your posts elsewhere suggest that it's somewhere in the range of zero to three visits a year on average). There simply has not been "dramatic overall drop in heirloom-tomato quality" at the greenmarket. That's so clearly incorrect that I'm going to say it's a matter of fact rather than opinion. If it were "dramatic" and "overall" one of us would have noticed it.

Now, is it possible that on one infrequent visit you went on the wrong day and bought from the wrong vendor, who was selling the watery, less-flavorful fruit that people upthread have indicated results from certain weather conditions? And that this meant you got heirloom tomatoes that didn't live up to the expectations of your memory? That seems rather more likely to me. Greenmarket heirloom tomatoes, just like any highly weather- microclimate- growing- and handling-dependent produce (and I would argue that tomatoes are among the most sensitive in this regard) are sometimes going to be less than perfect. That's the nature of the beast. If people say it happens in their home gardens, there's no way it can be avoided in a commercial operation. This is no less true now than it was in 1997, unless it is the case that we had a string of summers with uniformly optimal tomato weather throughout (which I find unlikely). It's not like the tomato growers are going to, or were ever going to throw away all their ripe heirloom tomatoes just because a week of heavy rains had made them less than perfect. Remember, we had a ton of rain a while back. This weather, according to my guys at the USGM, definitely had a short-term negative impact on heirloom tomato quality. Now, on the other hand, the weather's been perfect for him and his tomatoes are back to peak quality.

The point is that a particular product designation went from being worth something to being worth very little. Some folks, myself included, find that both interesting and regrettable.

The point I think many of us are making is that the product that was good "back in the day" is still just as outstanding as it always was. The fact that you're the only person arguing the counterpoint, and that you have historically declared yourself not-a-greenmarket-shopper, strikes me as an indication that you don't have a good basis for asserting that the great growers of 1997 are now turning out mediocrity. Now, I have agreed that ten years ago the words "heirloom tomato" were almost always associated with high quality and that they are not so today (primarily because of new entrants to the heirloom tomato growing, handling and selling chain). But I never thought that "heirloom tomato" was a designation of quality. It's not like buying a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano, which must be produced in a certain way and passed by the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano. That is a designation of minimum quality. I've always known that tomato quality is highly dependent on the way they are grown and handled, so it's no surprise to me that the heirloom tomatoes at Whole Foods and Stew Leonard's are not so great -- none of the tomatoes these places have ever sold have been up to the level of a picked-yesterday, peak-season, good-weather greenmarket tomato (heirloom or hybrid). I think that's the point that Dave, Mitch and I are arguing.

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I would like to comment on Steve's observation about mediocrity that might be creeping in because "even reputable growers are selling .....earlier and later [in the season."

I understand what he intends to say but wish to point out some very significant exceptions: HOOP HOUSES, LOW & HIGH TUNNELS.

At the Cornell conferences on organic agriculture and protected agriculture, one gets the chance to meet upstate vegetable growers, certified organic, who grow a range of produce employing various types of plastic shelters to extend the growing season.

Re: tomatoes, I had the pleasure of meeting one such team, that also cooperates with Cornell on varietal trials of heirloom tomatoes under hoophouse conditions. They are Honey Hill Farm at Livonia, NY, and they sell at Rochester; honeyhillfarm@frontier.net. Needless to add that my contact with them is purely non-commercial.

The seedlings are started out in the hoophouse quite early, April if possible. As the season advances, the plastic sides are furled up to let light and air bathe the plants. The very top of the plastic hoophouse keeps some of the rain out, allowing what is termed Controlled Deficit Irrigation, to regulate exuberant vegetative growth and ensure high sugar fruit on the trellised plants.

All of this makes for a superb high-solids high flavor tomato ripe by June, well before it would ripen in the field from a planting out date in late May. Moreover, for indeterminate varieties, those that will keep on flowering and fruiting for months, a hoophouse allows the sides to be unfurled back down as the weather turns chill, extending the growing season appreciably into the fall.

Most of the excellent US heirlooms, Brandywine Sudduth strain, Marianna's Peace, Andrew Rahart's Jumbo Red, Neves Azorean Red, Aunt Gertie's Gold etc. all are both indeterminate, and late-mid-season in ripening, 85-90 days under upstate night conditions i.e. the very end of summer.

So the use of hoophouses to extend the growing seasons is both clever and legitimate. Other than such methods [protected cultivation], that actually improve fruit quality, there is no way to bring fruit to market "earlier and later" to paraphrase Steve, at least not locally grown fruit. As I understand it, GM does not allow non-local produce to sold, i.e. that from warmer climes.

gautam

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I particularly hate the generically labelled "heirloom tomato". I see this most frequently at the supermarket and occasionally at the farmers' market.

I want to know the name of the freakin' tomato varietal! Is it an Early Girl or a Better Boy? A Cherokee Purple, a Black Krim, or a Carbon? A Pineapple or a Dr. Wyche's?

Don't give me some generic term like "heirloom" which then leaves me to judge what varietal it might be based on appearance.

<grumble>

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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i'm an heirloom tomato neophyte, so i can't comment on trends (or the names of the varieties in question) but this discussion inspired me to try several of them.

i went to the greenmarket this weekend and picked out five of the best looking examples i could find, each one a different variety.

final score: one was insanely delicious, one was so flavorless that i threw it out, and three were ok ... no more flavorful or well textured than what you normally get this time of year at a supermarket, though a bit more interesting tasting and a lot more interesting looking.

Notes from the underbelly

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